Festivals: End Of The Road Festival 2019 Review

Oh End Of The Road, where do we start? End Of The Road definitely blows many other festivals out of the water, dishing up some of the most diverse line-ups in an enchanting setting, a festival worth checking out if you haven’t already – we assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

After a long coach ride down on the Big Green Coach (a cost-effective and eco-friendly way of travelling down) and the whole rigmarole of lugging all your bags and booze down and setting the tent up, we finally cracked open that first, well-deserved can of beer and decided to have a wander into the arena. The first act of the weekend for us was the mighty Flamingods on the Woods Stage with their psychedelic riffs shredding up the stage; they wowed us with their ever-growing track that is currently at 17 minutes long (and counting), a brilliant way to kick off the festival for us. We then ran over to catch Du Blonde, Beth Jeans Houghton’s project, whose sound has definitely evolved since her days back in the folk scene, performing sassy, punk-inspired tracks. She also ran some of her brilliant artwork in the art exhibition at the festival, being the multi-talented person she is.

After a delicious white wine-marinated sausage and tartiflette from the La Grande Bouffe stall, a festival classic, we made our way back over to the Woods stage to watch legendary headliners Spiritualized, who performed twinkly songs to fall in love to like I’m Your Man, Let’s Dance and Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space, as well as rockier upbeat numbers like Come Together and She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit), brimming with harmonies from the wonderful backing singers. Once the acts had finished, we found ourselves being suckered into the silent disco at the Tipi Tent where we danced the night away.

We woke up on Friday in the obligatory hot tent, usually a good sign of weather to come. First band of the day for us was an accidental discovery, and a brilliant one at that. Whilst eating our lunch from the Curry Shed (we went for the three curries, rice and a chapati, very delicious) we were slowly lured over to the Big Top by the proggy vibrations that were emitted by the extremely gifted Once and Future Band, whose jazzy chord progressions and complex structures reminded us of the band Yes. It was then time for Stella Donnelly on at the Garden Stage, who was complete with a band this year as opposed to playing solo at Green Man 2018. Ever the story-teller, she thoroughly charmed the crowd over with her sweet, yet cheeky demeanour, incorporating dance moves with her band members and cracking up the audience. She then told us she was heading over to see SASAMI, someone who wasn’t originally part of her schedule so we decided to do the same and wow, were we glad we did. SASAMI stomped onto the stage and greeted the audience with a wide-eyed roar down the microphone, introducing herself as “Not Sasimi, not Sashimi, not f*ck your mommy, it’s SASAMI” and ripped into her first song, drenched in distortion. Her live set was much rawer than her recordings, making for an entertaining and thrilling show, a definite highlight of the festival.

Here comes clash number one! We wanted to see Wand but also fancied a bit of a dance at Bodega, so we did half and half. Wand provided an atmospheric soundscape with their hazy effects and dirty guitar riffs, and Bodega were bounding about on stage with their punky chanting, vigorously whacking their drums – very fun and animated. Cass McCombs was up next, gracing the Garden Stage with his delicate vocals and beautifully crafted songs, performing Bum Bum Bum and many others.

After a lot of back-and-forth, we were back once again at the Woods Stage where Baxter Dury strutted in with his band, slick as ever, executing some of his popular tracks such as Miami, Palm Trees and Cocaine Man; an absolute pleasure. With the slight overlap of sets, we sprinted over for Mitski’s well-awaited set, and she did not disappoint, blasting out the goosebump-inducing Your Best American Girl and graciously using a table as a prop for her performances, expressing herself through intricate dance moves. We stuck around for Garden stage headliners Parquet Courts who really got the crowd going, especially when they played Berlin Got Blurry and got the whistle out and tore out Wide Awake. The night ended there for us as a girl got injured in the craziness of the crowd and we spent the rest of the night in A&E keeping her company because we’re good like that (she’s fine by the way).

After about three hours sleep, we woke up to a slightly grey and wet Saturday, but after two beautifully sunny days, we were due a bit of a dampener. Waterproofs on, we braved the rain and went to see the hypnotic TVAM in the Big Top with their rumbling sub-bass, vocals doused in delay and striking background visuals. Our stomachs started rumbling and we realised we hadn’t eaten anything yet, so we decided to check out Polental, where the lovely Mikey served up crispy, cheesy cubes of polenta, with a lentil-based ragu with an egg in it, basil oil, Gran Padana cheese, and rocket salad. Heavenly. But then we realised we’d made a mistake leaving the Big Top, as the queue for Squid stretched all the way out past the mini golf. As a result, we sadly missed them, though we managed to have a chat with Louis from Squid at the staff after-party on the final night who was very sweet and modest, and still in awe of how well they’re doing. Being unable to get anywhere near the Big Top, we went over to the Woods stage for the sultry sounds of Nubya Garcia, performing sophisticated, contemporary jazz on the saxophone with her band.

Being that we hadn’t visited the Piano Stage yet, we moseyed on over and were more than pleased to see a secret set from the stunning Molly Sarlé from Mountain Man, embarking on her solo adventure after touring with Feist as one of her backing singers, her silky voice intertwining through her unique version of Elliott Smith’s cover of Big Star’s Thirteen, and a couple more other songs. We stuck around for another secret set from the wonderful Sam Evian and Hannah Cohen, performing a stripped down version of Summer Day, Hannah then performed one of her own as well as a devastatingly beautiful version of Motion Pictures by Neil Young with Sam on the piano, such a dreamy collaboration. We were lucky enough to interview the two of them before their official slot at the Tipi tent, which will shortly follow this review…stay tuned! Sam’s Tipi tent set was just as remarkable, sounding rich with his band, his unique, glossy vocals saturating the entire tent. Kikagaku Moyo were a pleasure to watch, their long luscious hair gently swaying as they performed Green Cardigan, completely mesmerising the crowd with the psychedelic aura.

Time for our Saturday night headliner! Aussie rocker Courtney Barnett played a flawless set, sounding incredibly tight with her band, singing Pedestrian at Best, and Nameless, Faceless to name a few. Incredibly humble and thankful towards the audience for their support, she was a joy to watch. Subsequently, we meandered around the woods, taking in all of the delightful art and light installations, and a couple of us ended up on the Ferris wheel after a couple of dry ciders from the Cider Bus. We ended the night at the Disco ship, busting out some moves to some soul and disco tracks, and finished off in the games area playing ping pong, and watching the skipping competition until the sun started coming up. Definitely time for bed.

It’s the last day and we’re all feeling incredibly sad that the weekend is drawing to a close. However! We have a full day ahead of us. Canadian post-punkers Crack Cloud started the day off with a bang, the stage bursting with seven extremely talented members, including a saxophonist who would go from dissonant chaotic stabs to smooth jazzy solos. At many points of the set there were four guitarists who all played astonishingly in time with one another. They managed to get the audience to participate in a Wall of Death (for those who aren’t familiar with the term, it’s when the crowd is split in half, leaving a gap in the middle, then both sides charge towards each other when they’re told), which we crazily took part in, and it descended into total madness. This all happened at 1pm, not too long after breakfast. The complex structures and time signatures, and the extremely proficient drummer/singer made this act another one of our highlights, despite not exactly being what we would usually cover (we are indeed called Thank Folk For That), we all need a little bit of diversity in our lives don’t we?

The fantastic thing about this festival is the size. The smallness meant we were able to run over to Jessica Pratt’s set at the Garden stage in about three minutes flat. The contrast between her and Crack Cloud was extraordinarily significant; with her voice delicate like rose petals, her warm, finger-picking on the classical guitar and her minimalistic approach to music with only a keyboardist to accompany her; such a gorgeous set.

Lunch today was something we’d been wanting to try for a while but never got round to. Dosa Deli! Crispy, freshly made dosa pancakes filled with masala paneer, served with a spicy chutney and a cooling bit of yoghurt/cheese. Extremely tasty, highly recommended. It was then time for the Welsh goddess herself, Cate Le Bon. Effortlessly cool rocking her long blue dress, she performs a sensational set including Home To You and Daylight Matters. Post-punk Dubliners Fontaines D.C. then took over the Big Top sounding incredibly solid, the crowd going absolutely wild, chanting back “Is it too real for ya?” In unison during Too Real. We were incredibly grateful to be there for Deerhunter’s quirky set, dedicating a song to Princess Diana as it was the anniversary of her death the day before, performing songs from older albums such as Halcyon Digest as well as their latest album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?, cracking jokes throughout the set.

Rumours of some of the surprise shows made their way to our ears, and we were pleased to discover South Londonders Shame were on at the Big Top where they tested out a lot of their new material, which sounded very promising. They raged through their set, with singer Charlie swimming through the crowd on a couple of occasions with his colossal stage presence, spitting out lyrics and causing a glorious uproar in the crowd.

What to say about Jarv…is? Jarvis Cocker is just a magnificent man, ridiculously entertaining and engaging, a brilliant lyricist and storyteller, writing songs about home wreckers and fears. At one point he asks members of the audience what their fears were, sticking a microphone towards Francesco at the front, where he responds “rockstars being really close to my face”. Jarvis reveals his fears: the smell of damp towels, people who drink out of milk bottles and men over 40 in ankle socks. He introduces many of his new Jarv…is tracks, as well as performing some obscure Pulp tracks, which avid Pulp fans will have been pleased to hear. He got the crowd singing along to one of his older tracks C*nts Are Still Running the World, a song he felt was more relevant than ever at this moment in time, and finishes his set with a rendition of Boys II Men’s End of the Road, a very common theme amongst bands at this festival, and it leaves the crowd in high spirits, beaming smiles on faces.

So the last act of the festival is finally here… And what a great act to end on too. Bristolians Beak> were to wrap up the festival at the Big Top with their dark, menacing bass riffs, robotic, mechanical drumbeats reminiscent of Krautrock, and throbbing synths. Very serious music, unlike their stage banter. As soon as they appeared on stage through the haze and the cold light, shadows looming, and the crowd starts cheering for them, they broke the spell by saying “Don’t cheer us yet, you haven’t heard us you f*cking bunch of remainers”, and everyone erupts with laughter. Constantly poking fun at each other in between songs, they performed the sinister Wulfstan II, Brean Down and instrumental experimental track Allé Sauvage. The perfect finish.

So there you have it, that’s our take on End Of The Road Festival 2019 summed up in one small article, which doesn’t do it justice in the slightest. You’d have to be there to even apprehend how special this festival really is. The music, the food, the new friends we’d made. Even upon leaving the festival, it was so reassuring to see how little litter there was left behind, which says a lot about the festival-goers and the measures the festival itself takes to promote being green. If you haven’t been yet, we highly recommend giving it a go one year.

End Of The Road, it’s been a pleasure. See you in 2020!

Chi Limpiroj